By any description, Faith Lutheran junior Chase Wood had a successful 2013 cross country season. However, he has been focused on just 11 seconds since the Division I-A state cross-country championship race in November.
Those 11 seconds were the difference between Wood winning a state title and placing third, and he’s been hard at work this summer to make sure he’s the first one to cross the line in this season’s state title race.
“Yeah, that has been motivating me,” he said. “I’ve looked at that meet a lot of times over the course of the last school year and the offseason. I’ve looked at what I did and what they did. I’ve looked at where I could improve.”
Last season, Wood relied on a strong finishing kick over the final 300 meters to power him to six victories, including the Sunset League Championships. In the state title race in Reno, Wood’s final kick was not enough in the 3.1-mile race, as Truckee’s Noah Oberriter (16 minutes, 53 seconds) and Elko’s Kyler Simpkins (16:54) were able to hold off Wood (17:04). Oberriter and Simpkins are also returning for the 2014 season.
“I definitely plan to step it up in the first and second mile and stick with the top people in the third mile,” Wood said. “I can then try and get ahead of them or stay with them and finish strong.”
While Wood didn’t win a cross country title, he did bring home gold in two events in the Division I-A state track and field meet in May. Wood won the 3,200 meters with a time of 9:59.41, and the 1,600 in 4:32.84.
“Winning those state titles and beating the two people who beat me in cross country is a confidence booster for the upcoming season,” Wood said. “The mile and 2-mile prepares me to run with more speed, while the (3.1 mile) is more endurance based. It will help me a lot to transfer that speed over to the (3.1-mile) race.”
Wood will also carry the home-course advantage with him this season as the state meet will be held at Sunset Park.
“Running down South is so much different,” Wood said. “We know the course, the temperature and how the course is going to be. In Reno it’s a lot cooler, we don’t know the temperatures, how the altitude will affect us, and the course is different. So, we never know what to expect up there.”
In order to bring down his time while improving endurance, Wood has been interval training. One day he’s running longer distances to improve his endurance, and the next day he’s running shorter distances to improve his speed. He has also set a personal goal of posting a time of 16:30 or better. His personal best last year was 16:47, which was set during a home meet against The Meadows and Western.
“That is a tremendous motivator for the other kids when he sets a high goal like that,” Faith Lutheran coach Jeff Edwards said. “Those numbers are a lofty goal for him, but I don’t see 16:30 as a problem. When he sets the bar high, everyone sets the bar high.”
Wood also sets the right kind of example for teammates during training sessions.
“You couldn’t ask for a more motivated runner and better leader,” Edwards said. “If (Chase) runs his 400 and the other kids are 50 meters behind him, he’ll go back around and start cheering those guys on. If someone has to do an extra interval, he’ll hop in and pace that kid.”
Edwards and Wood also have high hopes for the team as a whole. One of Wood’s goals is to get Faith Lutheran to the state meet. Senior Austin Hunt returns to help push the pace for Wood and to keep the Crusaders in the hunt for regional and state titles. Hunt finished fifth at the state meet last season with a time of 17:25.
“Our top two runners are up there with the best in the state,” Edwards said. “We let our other guys know we need them to run with Chase and Austin and to get up to that level. We are starting to see that, and we might have a chance to win region and possibly state.”